That year went quickly. I didn’t mean to abandon anybody, have always said that I’d be clear about the end of this blog when the time came, but then the end came and went and I hardly noticed. I only noticed that I was interested in other things, and that it felt good to let myself be pulled along by the current.
A year ago September, September of 2017, I started work on a proposal for a new book. I had started reading again, more than just my perfunctory fifteen minutes before sleep. Hearing different voices and other people’s thoughts in my head, I started to notice the way they excited me, energized me, made me want to do my own work. So, starting in September of that year, I devoted one of my workdays each week to a new book, a new project. I was embarrassed to tell people that it was another memoir. How mortifying!, how presumptuous!, working on a third memoir and I was only 39. My life has been very ordinary and continues to be: I’m a white woman who comes from and lives with privilege. I try to keep this in my sights, because it’s more important now than ever. I also try to put my head down and shut up and do the work, because the work, the act of writing, is worth it, and I am very lucky to do it. It took eight months, but in May, the proposal was ready, and I was elated to see it land at Abrams Press, where it will be published in 2020. As soon as I finish writing it.
This book is not about food! People tell me this is risky? If this is what danger looks like, I am now someone who lives for it. This book is a story about sexuality, identity, and the many ways we make the thing we call family. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted so much to write any single thing, not the way I want to write this book. I am having to learn how to write it as I go along, without the handy crutch that food and recipes had become for me. Sitting at my desk, on a good day at least, I can almost feel the neurons stretch and zing and ping, reach across a synapse, build a new bridge, connect places that weren’t connected.
I turned forty two months ago, and to celebrate, Ash and I went to Greece, a trip we started planning deep in last winter. I’d wanted to go for years, ever since my friends Christophe and Gemma first went and shared some photos from their trip online. We spent most of our time on the island of Milos, in the western Cyclades, and a little time on Sifnos, too, which is known for its pottery traditions. I quietly set myself a goal of getting more comfortable swimming in open water — you will note that this goal was very open-ended; “getting more comfortable” will never be measured by any yardstick — and little by little, I chipped away at it. Metaphors! I will leave this one here for you.
June is six and is thriving. I feel less like writing about her online, mindful of the fact that she’s going to live in this online world one day and should get to speak for herself. I think it’s okay, though, to mention that she is possibly the world’s number one fan of beans and greens, refuses raw tomatoes and a wide variety of vegetables, lives for meat meat MEAT, and shares my passion for Nerds and sour gummies. Brandon gave me an Instant Pot for my birthday. I checked out Dinner in an Instant from the library, and June, thumbing through it, promptly requested Garlicky Cuban Pork. (Hot tip: do degrease the juices after cooking, preferably with a fat separator.) Ash has also made a bang-up Shrimp Scampi from the same book. We are now Instant Pot believers. If this blog were still thriving, and if it had stayed solely about food, it would probably become one of those Instant Pot blogs.
June took the three photos that follow, using the old Pentax K1000 camera I bought myself in 2008 and film that was left in my parents’ freezer after my dad died in 2002. She calls it her camera now, and these shots are from her second-ever roll. Burg would be proud. Atta girl.
What a pleasure this is. I’d almost forgotten. Thank you.
P.S. Crap, totally forgot: I am teaching a fair amount now! Currently don’t have much scheduled so that I can focus on writing, but I will be teaching a four-day workshop on the craft of food memoir next May, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A dream!
Out here, up here
Today I come to you from Sitka, Alaska, where I’ve been since last Saturday, leading a writing workshop on memoir and place. I’m among the faculty for the first-ever Sitka Arts and Science Festival, a week of multi-disciplinary cross-pollination and collaboration dreamed up by the Sitka Fine Arts Camp and several local partners, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s been cool and misty almost every day, summer-in-Sitka-y. I didn’t bring enough clothing for this weather, even though, after fourteen years in the Pacific Northwest, I ought to know better. I’m re-wearing what I did bring. Today is day four for these leggings, day two for this sweatshirt. I’ve been wearing my cheap Uniqlo down vest, and it spits out tiny white…Read more
While the house is quiet
Today is our Sunday, and everyone but me is napping, sleepy after a lunch of cheese toast and cucumber salad. While the house is quiet, I should probably be doing tax paperwork and résumé reading and other sacred rituals of small business ownership, but: – I’ve never felt confident about picking favorites: my favorite movie, favorite song, favorite food, favorite whatever. I don’t have many favorite anything. But I do feel confident about saying this: Michael Chabon is my favorite novelist. His first novel The Mysteries of Pittsburgh has been my favorite book for two decades, since I first read it at sixteen years old. He also wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which won a Pulitzer Prize,…Read more
I got to go back
The first time I went to the Oklahoma Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain was in the summer of 1995, a few months after a fire destroyed the lodge, its rooms and dining hall and library. I was sixteen, one of about a dozen high school students from across the state who’d been accepted to the summer program in poetry. Quartz Mountain is beautiful, an isolated chain of red crags along a lake in the southwest part of the state, but my introduction wasn’t poetic: because the library was gone, our class met in a trailer, with a limping air conditioner, folding tables, and a couple of electric typewriters that we shared. But our teacher was the poet Peter Fortunato, brought…Read more